by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
As we move toward the holidays and the end of the year, there are not many books coming out this week. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to highlight a few of my favorites that I've read so far from our pub day shout-outs!
Fredrik Backman's Anxious People
Description from Publisher:
"Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
"Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Rich with Fredrik Backman’s 'pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature' (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times."
What I Loved about It: We talked about this one on our September 8th Shout-outs, and we have all enjoyed Backman's books in the past. I just recently finished this one (thanks to access to the audiobook as an ALC with Libro.fm—I loved the narration!), and it was phenomenal. A group of strangers come together in an unlikely situation, and they learn to understand and care for one another. It's a book about desperation, anxiety, forgiveness, and hope, and I love it so much!
Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam's Punching the Air
Description from Publisher:
"From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
"The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born
"Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. 'Boys just being boys' turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
"The story that I think
will be my life
"Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both."
What I Loved about It: We featured this one on the September 1st Pub Day Shout-outs, and we also discussed it as our November Book Club episode. Amal's story is powerful, poignant, and piercing, and his plight encourages readers to examine our criminal justice system and its impact on individual teenagers. It's a beautiful novel in verse that is an excellent read for teens and adults.
Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half
Description from Publisher:
"The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?
"Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race,The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
"As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise."
What I Loved about It: We featured this one on the June 1st pub day shout-outs, and after reading and LOVING The Mothers, I knew I had to read this one! This is one of my favorite reads of the year. Through these twins, one who embraces her Blackness and another who spends her adult life passing as white, Bennett examines the complexities of racial identity in an inequitable society; she explores the reasons why individuals may choose to embrace or abandon their heritage... and the price they pay for those choices. This is a rich, complex story full of nuance and thought-provoking situations that examine the racial and racist underpinnings of American society and the way those play out for a family over generations.
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